The Herald sat down with Lena Dunham after the Ivy Film Festival screening Saturday to discuss her unique dialogical style, success in Hollywood and how to survive after college.
The Herald: How do you balance having real, pointless, messy dialogue with the narrative arc you need for a movie or show to work?
Dunham: It’s always a challenge. I think you’re always trying to be conscious that something feels real but moves at the appropriate speed. You really have to kind of check yourself and go, “Is this indulgent? Or is this a pause that makes this world feel real?” It’s a balance that you’re always checking. But I think at a certain point your instincts get good enough that you kind of know.
A lot of your focus is on confronting the real world post-college. Do you have any advice, or warning, for college students about how to deal with the phase of life directly after college?
There are two things I wish I’d done. It’s funny, because I sound contradictory, but I wish I had been both tougher on myself and kinder to myself. I feel like when I first got out, I didn’t try to force myself to be proactive. I sort of was lazy about the whole getting a job and beginning my life thing, but I was also really hard on myself and sort of speaking to myself in an unkind way, like, “You’re not smart enough,” or “You’re not productive enough,” or “You’re not pretty enough” to walk into that place and get a job. I feel like I could have been both nicer to myself and more motivated, and I think that that’s the important balance.
And I also think knowing. Hopefully a show like this, if it does anything, can make people know that it’s a pretty universal time to struggle. Because I think the thing that makes periods like that hard is feeling like you’re the only one. So if you understand that this is designed to be a confusing transitional period, you’ll weather it a lot better.
In a show called “Girls,” about four girls, and you’re a girl, do you have trouble writing the male point of view?
Well, we don’t always show the male point of view. We show a lot of lady thoughts. Men are often just seen through the eyes of the female characters. That being said, I really try to be real with myself about the guys not feeling like cartoons. And it’s great because I have these great male actors and a male producer who really tell me if something’s not feeling on point to them.
Since you have your own show on HBO now, and you’re more and more in the news and Hollywood conversation, are you finding celebrity culture to be intimidating at all? Or are you still just kind of living your life?
I’m sure it would be (intimidating) if I were involved in it, but I still totally like to hang out with my family and my friends, and do the same, and go to spin class, and watch TV and do the same activities. I think it’s dangerous to start reading your own press and taking all that stuff really seriously because it can become a full-time job, and that’s not what the job is. And also, obviously we all know that it’s a complete illusion that there’s anything magical or specific about celebrities. So I think it’s really nice to get accolades for your work, and all of the rest of it is super stupid even if occasionally you get to like wear a pretty dress, which is an exciting thing to get to do as a woman.
And I think your whole image goes along with everything you write, which is very real and relatable.
That’s my hope. I’m always trying to fight anyone who is encouraging me to wear too much hair or makeup. I still have my makeup on from a photo shoot yesterday. I literally just didn’t wash my face. I put some cream on to kind of spread it around, but I didn’t wash my face.
I actually don’t know how long is normal for a girl to keep makeup on.
I would usually wash it off at night. Every night you should wash off your makeup. You shouldn’t leave it on for multiple days. I was on an airplane overnight, I was on a red-eye flight, so it felt slightly more acceptable. But like getting into bed with your makeup on? Bad. Bad for your skin. I got on an airplane, and then took a nap, and still have not washed my face. I wash my face twice a day. That’s one thing, like, I don’t have very many girly obsessions, but because I have to get so much makeup put on my face all the time for shooting, I have to wash it every day or else I get really insane pimples and red face and everything.
I wash my face every day.
Do you wash your face every day? I bet, you look like a person who washes his face every day.